Baofeng Radio Without A Licence

“Can I use a Baofeng without a licence?” This is one of our most common questions. Here’s our answer, which applies to UK usage:

What is a Baoefeng?

It’s a brand name for a very popular make of cheap handheld radio, favoured by radio amateurs and other radio enthusiasts.

Common models include the Baofeng UV-5R , Baofeng UV-B6 and the Baofeng 888

Can I use it for amateur radio?

Baofeng UV-5R Handheld
Baofeng UV-5R Handheld

Yes, if you have a licence. Many amateurs use Baofeng, as they are cheap and powerful handhelds.

You can legally listen to amateur radio on a Baofeng, but to transmit, you need a valid amateur radio licence from Ofcom. This requires you to take the UK amateur radio “Foundation” licence. Typically, this involves about 4-5 hours of study, completing a few basic practical exercises, and taking a multiple-choice theory test. You can study with the help of a local amateur radio club, or online (with our Foundation Online course). Typically takes about 12 hours to complete the course and exam. There’s a fee to fit the exam (£27.50 as of 2018) and the Ofcom licence itself is free)

Once you have your licence, you can use a handheld radio on the frequency range 144 to 146MHz, and 430 to 440MHz, which are allocated for amateur radio use. Radios like the popular Baofeng UV-5R can access both of these ranges.

It is perfectly legal to listen to PMR on a Baofeng though.

Can I use it for PMR?

PMR radios don’t require a Licence, and typical radios you can pick up on the high street use PMR frequencies for short-range walkie-talkie applications.

Technically, Baofengs can be programmed to work on the UK PMR frequencies (446MHz), however legally this is not permitted. PMR has a maximum power limit of 0.5 watts. Baofeng radios normally transmit at 5 watts, or 8 watts. Some do have a low-power setting, but this is at least 1 watt (or more), so even on low power, they transmit more power than is legal in the UK for PMR.

Many argue that no-one will know (or care) if you transmit 1 watt instead of 0.5 watts, and anyone doing so does so at their own risk, but the official answer as we understand it, is “No – you can’t use a Baofeng legally for PMR if they exceed 0.5 watts on transmit.

It is perfectly legal to listen to PMR on a Baofeng though.

Listening using a Baofeng Radio?

You can use a Baofeng to listen to amataur radio. We have a page on the subject – See Listening in the amateur radio.

Ofcom Business Licence

If you want to use Baofeng radios legally, and don’t want an amateur radio licence, then this is another option – The Ofcom Business Simple UK Licence. At the time of writing (2017), this is available online from Ofcom – £75 for 5 years. Apply online here. You can take out a licence for a company, individual, as a sole trader, or as a group/charity. With this licence, you’ll be allowed to use a selection of frequencies in the 164MHz, 169Mhz, 173Mhz and 449MHz ranges. Power limit is 5 watts, the standard power for most Baofeng models.

Are there any other frequencies I can transmit on?

No. Not legally


Hopefully, that’s helped. If you have any questions, please ask below…

Related links